Linux Mint Sarah on MacBook Pro

Background

So, I have this 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display early 2013 lying around and am contemplating buying the 2016 one. But, to be honest, I’m not so sure that I will be getting the best bang for my buck.

As such, I am looking to see if moving away from the macOS ecosystem is even possible for me, a person that has been with a version of Mac OS X for years now.

I had a lot of experience with Ubuntu and Fedora before, so, now I wanted to try something different.

I have already tried elementaryOS, and while their effort in prioritizing design and user experience is admirable, it just isn’t the best development OS on the market right now. I might right a follow up post on my experience with the OS later, but for now, I have moved on to Mint, the second one in line that caught my attention.

First Impressions

The first impression I got from the installer was amazing. It supported a hefty 1680×1050 Retina resolution out-of-the-box. My only gripe was with the WiFi driver not working right away.

I could remedy that by going to the “Driver Manager” setting in the System Settings app and enabling the proprietary driver for the WiFi.

While I was at it, I changed the graphics card’s driver to NVIDIA, and the processor microcode firmware to “intel-microcode”.

I guess I could have just waited for the installer to do that for me, but since I wanted to get a sense of the environment without installing first, these were a must for me.

After Installing

So, it turns out that enabling the drivers had nothing to do with the post-install state of the machine. I had to reenable them all. To make matters worse, for some reason, the fully installed version didn’t let me enable the WiFi driver without an Internet connection. Thankfully, getting a connection to the Internet from my my dongle-less MacBook was relatively easy, as I just had to plug in my iPhone to use it as a cellular modem — which to Mint’s credit, was recognized and used right away.

Everything was going smoothly. I installed git, Java, and then proceeded to install IntelliJ IDEA. It was remarkably good, with great performance.

If anything, the resolution of the screen was too much for me. I scaled it down a single level (to what I normally used with OS X) and … it all went bad. The graphics turned to pre-2000 quality with all the pixels visible, and the colors not that great.

This was more than a surprise, as the 1440×900 relation is exactly what I used with the OS X installed on the MacBook Pro. So, I was astounded that the quality got so poor by reverting to a lower resolution.

I looked at the drivers, and there it goes. The driver was not NVIDIA’s original, proprietary driver, and was an open source version from X.org instead. I switched to NVIDIA , it downloaded a number of packages, and it was a blast.

I installed everything I wanted (Dropbox, Wine, etc.). It was working great. Then, I shut it down and put it in my backpack for work.

The next day, I went to work, happy to have found a neat replacement for my macOS Sierra, by the name of Sarah. In it was all free, too. Yay!

Then, I started my computer, and was confronted by a purplish-black screen, instead of the Mint boot page. I went to recovery mode. No luck.

I had to go back to the very beginning and start reinstalling everything, barring the graphics driver. It was working, and all was good. I lived with this system for three days. But somehow, it felt really ugly. Then, I realized that I absolutely loved the graphics of my macOS system, and that my subconscious was protesting at its loudest, and thus ended my adventures in the Mint-land.

I tried Ubuntu, and to my surprise, it had the very same issues with NVIDIA, and wasn’t as great an experience as Mint was.

I reinstalled macOS.

Finding My Inner Mac

Hello everybody out there! About two weeks ago, I bought my very first MacBook. It’s not much better than my old VAIO Z, hardware-wise. But man, can it work.
The OSX runs in about twenty seconds and the logon process takes about 5 seconds (compare it to a 95 second startup time on Windows 7).
After the initial confusion of finding my way around, everything was a piece of cake. After only three hours, I had said goodbye to my old VAIO Z. For nearly any application I had on my Windows, there is a – sometimes better – replacement for my Mac. More than that, I now have the luxury of enjoying a native Persian calendar, the lack of which I always felt on Windows

Everything looks perfect and elegant. At 2kg – about 500g heavier than Z – it’s just barely heavy enough to make me notice the weight.
What I have installed on the OS include:

  • calibre; to manage my eBooks and also to have something to work with my Nook. Also, the interface was familiar since I had used it on my Windows already. The real disappointment here, was that I couldn’t satisfactorily manage my eBooks’ collection with iTunes. I liked the interface very much, however I couldn’t get it to work with the Nook as well as I wanted to.
  • IntelliJ IDEA; currently my favorite IDE for developing anything, from C to enterprise Java applications.
  • MacJournal; the all powerful note-taking, document-organizing, blog client, etc. that I use right now. This post is written in MacJournal by the way. Up until this very moment, I think I like it.
  • Nambu; for tweeting madly day and night.
  • Firefox; my browser of choice for the moment, since I couldn’t find anything like Foxyproxy for Safari.
  • Skype; no comments here, I gather.
  • VLC; the awesome all purpose multimedia player. The only thing lacking a bit for me is the fuzziness of videos for my RMVB videos.
  • Vuze; the great, cross-platform Bittorrent client, written in Java.
  • Keka; the very cool compression utility capable of decompressing GZip, BZip, 7zip, RAR, etc., developed on top of 7zip.
  • JDiskReport; since I am a hard disk usage nerd. It provides me with excellent, detailed reports of exactly how I have used my hard disk.

Also, I have come to believe that Mac is all about integration. I am now enjoying a level of integration and cooperation of applications I never had experienced before. My iPhoto, Address Book, Mail, and Skype are inter-connected. I can sync my Nokia E52 mobile phone with my Mac as easily as I would take a look at it. And it’s just the beginning.
Well, I guess that’s all for now. Have a good time folks.